U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Contact: Jennifer Frost/Maureen Knightly

January 20, 2000


Iowa Senator Pushes Lott, Hastert to Convene Public Meetings

WASHINGTON --- U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today joined other Democrats to call on House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in a letter insisting that the conference committee on the Patients' Bill of Rights convene public meetings as soon as Congress returns to session. Harkin, the only member of the Iowa Congressional delegation to be a conferee on the legislation, is a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

"Hardworking American families should not be forced to wait any longer to get the same health care protections that Members of Congress already have," said Harkin. "During the time the conferees have failed to act, hundreds of thousands of Americans have suffered from health plan abuses. There is no excuse for further delay."

In October, the House of Representatives passed the Norwood-Dingell Patients' Bill of Rights which provides several strong health care protections to patients against HMOs, but appointment of conferees was delayed until November 3rd. Harkin called on Hastert and Lott in a letter on November 10th requesting that the conferees meet before the end of the session.

House Democratic conferees wrote to Speaker Hastert on November 5th, requesting that Republican conferees begin bipartisan negotiations, but there has been no reply to their letter. There has been no meeting of the conferees, nor have Republican staff been directed to begin discussions with Democratic staff.

A copy of the letter is available upon request.


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